A Bit of Bronte Luck

Do you ever think that only the lucky get published? I sometimes despair when, after hours toiling over a story, it wings its way straight back to me in its self-addressed envelope. Old Haworth Post Office Counter

Last weekend I was in Haworth and heard that it was lucky to touch the old wooden post office counter, over which the Bronte sisters‘ manuscripts were sent on their way to London publishers. The counter is now in a gift shop (with a very friendly and obliging owner) and here is a photo of me trying to generate myself some luck! It was a shame I couldn’t actually send one of my stories over the counter and off to ‘success land’ – but perhaps a little bit of the Bronte success might rub off on me…

The highlight of this trip to Haworth was a guided tour with BronteWalks. I was brought up in West Yorkshire and had many trips to Howarth when I was younger but all that stuck in my mind from those visits was the tiny handwritten books that the sisters made as children and the drunken lifestyle of their brother, Branwell.

Our guide, Johnnie Briggs (no, not Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street!), soon put that right.  For instance, I didn’t know that:

  • There were 2 older Bronte siblings who died in childhood.
  • The Bronte sisters disliked  their work as governesses and dreamed of opening their own school.
  • It was the precarious state of the family finances that gave the sisters the final push they needed to complete novels and submit them to publishers (that reminded me of Jeffrey Archer who wrote Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less to rescue himself from bankruptcy)
  • Charlotte was pregnant when she died
  • Branwell painted himself out of his famous portrait of the sisters – see it here.
  • The sisters’ father, Patrick, outlived his wife and all 6 of his children. He died aged 84.

Following the tour I visited the sisters’ Parsonage home with my eyes newly opened. I imagined the sisters discussing and critiquing each others work in the dining room and saw the room where Branwell died, with his family gathered around him. The Brontes lives were shadowed in sadness and beset by difficulties but despite this (or maybe because of this?) they produced world-class fiction.

So no more excuses – get writing and submitting! (A little bit of luck wouldn’t go amiss though…)

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  1. #1 by Morton Gray on November 19, 2012 - 9:51 am

    An interesting post Sally. I think we all make assumptions, whether we realise it or not, about these famous people. Just shows we are not always aware of extenuating circumstances, even for those around us. Glad you had a good trip. Mx

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:03 pm

      Morton, I think we often assume that others are more successful than us because they don’t have our problems/lack of time/other hurdles to overcome. But most of the time it’s not true!

  2. #3 by Patsy on November 19, 2012 - 9:52 am

    I think luck does come into it sometimes.

    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:04 pm

      Yes, Patsy. I think success is a lot of hard work and maybe a little bit of sending the right thing to the right person at the right time.

  3. #5 by Tracy Fells on November 19, 2012 - 10:02 am

    Lovely to hear of your visit Sally. This is still on my ‘places to visit’ list as have devoured several books on the lives of the Brontes.

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:05 pm

      Tracy – it’s well worth the visit (although I know it’s a long way for you!)

  4. #7 by Keith Havers on November 19, 2012 - 10:03 am

    I hope the lucky counter works for you, Sally.
    Thanks for the post about your visit. It’s made me want to go and see for myself.

    • #8 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:06 pm

      Hope you enjoy it if you get to Haworth, Keith.

  5. #9 by jakill on November 19, 2012 - 11:39 am

    Good luck, Sally.

  6. #11 by margaretsmuses on November 19, 2012 - 11:48 am

    What a lovely piece of inspiring work Sally. I love the story of the Bronte Sisters and Branwell, against all odds they produced such beautiful writing. It is encouraging when an amateur writer gets a first rejection to read how other writers stoically carry on and keep submitting. I must confess, it has stopped me writing for a while as I (really shouldn’t have gone down this road …but!) thought why am I doing this, I’m not a writer, I’m just playing at being a writer.
    I must pick up my pen – or should that be “place fingers on the computer keys”, once again and try to find another publisher. The trouble is, out there, there are not many publishers around that accept unsolicited manuscripts.
    Writing is not easy and getting a rejection on your “masterpiece” 🙂 is even harder.
    Good luck with your submissions!

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:09 pm

      Margaret, you are absolutely right – writing is not easy! And rejections are very demoralising. But it does help knowing that there’s a whole ‘gang’ of us here in blogland who are all experiencing exactly the same thing. Keep going!

  7. #13 by Lesa Clarke on November 19, 2012 - 12:45 pm

    I’d like to visit Haworth. I live near an area in Northern Ireland known as the Bronte Homeland as this is where Patrick came from and I’ve had an interest in them for a long time. Perhaps somewhere here would have a little of that magic luck left to rub off on me – in the meantime best keep up with the writing and submitting…

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 1:13 pm

      Lesa, our tour guide told us a little about Patrick Bronte’s early life – he worked very hard to make it in life and was devastated when his wife died so young. I’m sure he left some luck behind for you …

  8. #15 by susanjanejones on November 19, 2012 - 5:22 pm

    Sounds like a great trip Sally, one I’d like to do when I’ve more time. I love those wild and windy Bronte stories. Mind you, what enormous pressure to be under having to write to earn a living. I’m pretty sure Agatha Christie wrote to keep her home as well in her day. I think I’d be a nervous wreck under such a strain. Great post, and I know the lucky counter will work. I feel lucky just looking at it…

    • #16 by Sally Jenkins on November 19, 2012 - 8:20 pm

      Susan, I agree writing to keep a roof over your head must be incredibly stressful – but it would certainly focus the mind and do away with procrastination!

  9. #17 by Christine Howe on November 20, 2012 - 11:11 am

    A very enjoyable post, Sally and I wish you luck with your writing.

  10. #19 by Linda on November 20, 2012 - 12:30 pm

    I’m not at all superstitious – but I’ll definitely take a detour to that counter next time I’m in Yorkshire!

    • #20 by Sally Jenkins on November 20, 2012 - 1:11 pm

      Linda, if you do, make sure you go on a tour to get the most out of your trip.

  11. #21 by Vikki (The View Outside) on November 20, 2012 - 11:29 pm

    Hope it works for you Sally 🙂


  12. #23 by Debbie Young on November 21, 2012 - 4:53 pm

    Lovely post and super pic of you at the lucky counter! I always admire writers of the pre-digital age for producing their manuscripts by hand – such long novels to be written in pen and ink. Even a biro would have seemed high tech to the Brontes. And then of course set in hot metal, moveable type. It’s a wonder that books ever caught on, really! We modern writers have it so easy by comparison. Typing this comment on my phone LOL.

    • #24 by Sally Jenkins on November 22, 2012 - 1:15 pm

      Debbie – you’re right, it’s hard to imagine writing a whole book with no cut, paste or insert facility!To use a phrase of my grandmother’s – writers today “don’t know they’re born”.

  13. #25 by tricialo on November 27, 2012 - 2:25 pm

    I visited Haworth last year, absolutely loved the parsonage, missed the post office though – I would have visited and touched the counter too if I’d known!

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